A 25-year-old man was sentenced to 19 years in prison for fatally shooting his coworker in the head with a crossbow, motivated apparently by jealousy because his victim was friendly with a coworker he liked.
Kota Mizuguchi was friends with his victim, then 27-year-old Reo Obika, since 2012 when they attended the same technical high school. They became coworkers in August 2020, after Mizuguchi, a resident of Japan’s southern Kagawa prefecture, introduced his victim to his company.
But friendship would turn to rivalry. As Mizuguchi began feeling like he was competing with his colleague for his crush’s attention, the 25-year-old invited Obika to his home on June 20 last year and shot him in the head, according to national broadcaster NHK.
In Japan, where gun possession is strictly prohibited, this case follows a trend of dangerous incidents involving crossbows, which weren’t illegal until March.
In June 2020, a 23-year-old college student murdered three of his family members by shooting them all in the head with a crossbow. In July of that same year, a 33-year-old woman attempted to shoot her husband with a crossbow while he was sleeping, barely missing his head. A month later, a 28-year-old woman shot a social worker who visited her home.
Alarmed by the string of crimes, lawmakers have pushed to ban the weapons with the goal of reducing the number of deadly offenses. Crossbows weren’t previously covered by Japan’s swords and firearms control act, but in June last year, they successfully passed a law that made the weapons illegal to carry without a permit. Now, those seeking crossbows must meet several requirements before getting their hands on a crossbow.
Applicants must be over 18 years of age and have no criminal record. Permits are only approved for specific purposes, such as sport shooting or licensed animal control—gun collectors won’t be approved. Owning a crossbow without a license can land you in prison for up to three years or a fine of up to 500,000 yen ($3,702).
Junichi Arai, a sales manager at a weapons store, said it’s too soon after the ban to tell if such restrictions are working to stop people from purchasing the weapons. But before the restrictions, he said his company sold about 10 to 20 crossbows a month.
“At the moment, we get about four or five requests for crossbows a month, but they still have to receive those permits to purchase the weapons,” he told VICE World News.
Arai said that now, he found there were more requests for slingshots. “It’s a totally different weapon, but the purpose is largely the same—to take aim at a target and enjoy shooting practice,” he said.
According to Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, Mizuguchi began searching the internet for fatal weapons—such as gunpowder and neurotoxins—proving to prosecutors that his crime was premeditated. Police also found that the morning of the murder, Mizuguchi sussed out a location in a nearby forest to dump his coworker’s body, a crime he was also charged for.
Mizuguchi, who’s admitted to his crimes, also paid his victim’s parents 30 million yen ($221,967) in compensation for killing their son.